Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Sunday, 8 March 2020

The Game Shelf Previews:- Cleocatra

Game: Cleocatra

Publisher: Sunrise Tornado Game Studio

Designer:  Ta-Te Wu

Year: 2020

 

Cleocatra is the third cat-themed game we've seen from Ta-Te Wu and Sunrise Game Studio - all featuring the extremely endearing artwork of Kaiami. Their last successful Kickstarter was for Cat Rescue - an extremely clever cooperative game, and no they're back with Cleocatra - a tile-laying an worker placement game for 2-4 players.

In Cleocatra, players are Egyptian cat rescuers, and the goal is to save cats in pyramids. Cleocatra is coming to Kickstarter on 11th March 2020 and with feature lots of mini expansions, in addition to the basic and advanced games featured in this preview, plus stretch goals that might add more cat drawings to the game!

Gameplay

In order to save the cats in the pyramid, you first need to build the pyramid. Players will start the game by placing a triangular tile and then adding one worker to it. Each triangular tile must, at all times, be touching another triangular tile to create a 'pyramid' structure. Players then will take turns performing two actions. Of these two actions the first may be a tile action and one or both of them can be worker actions.

Tile actions come in two forms in the basic game. You can either draw a new tile from the stack to add to the pyramid, or move an existing tile (that has nothing on) to another space on the pyramid. Worker actions allow you to place workers on the tile you placed/moved, place workers next to a worker you already own or score workers for points. When you score a worker you gain points for all the different coloured tiles around it, along with any other workers standing adjacent to the worker you scored. after scoring a tile you place an inspector on it, preventing it from being scored again until the inspector is moved off the tile by future scorings.



That's it for the basic game, when one player reaches at least 23 points the game ends. However, there is also an advanced mode which adds special actions for each tile on the board. These make the game more tactical, adding the ability to swap places with opponents, place inspectors on tiles other than the one you scored on, or gain bonus actions.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Cleocatra is a light, fast game with yet more cute cat art. This time the cats have an Egyptian theme to them which is, naturally, totally adorable. But for avid cat lovers out there I should mention the small tile size, along with the placement of workers and inspectors on top of the tiles, means that the cute cat art is often covered up! Of  course a game can't be solely judged by how much time you can spend staring at cute cat pictures while playing it.

Cleocatra is easy to pick up and play, for players who have played games such as Hive you'll feel right at home with the rules for constructing and moving pyramid tiles. While there aren't a huge number of varied actions in the base game, this works to the game's favour as each action becomes crucial in trying to get that edge. You are racing for that magic 23 points and games often end with only 1 or 2 points in it, unfortunately this may result in a feeling that the final winner was determined by a lucky/unlucky tile draw rather than mastery of the game.

Once you add the advanced rules the chance to really mess with your opponent appears and suddenly the game doesn't have to be so close. Using the powers well can leave your opponents stranded from locations that they want to score, blocking tiles they rely on or maintaining board presence that isn't possible in the base game. This is certainly the way to go for the two player game where cut-throat mechanics are needed to keep the game fresh, but you may find it takes away from the family gameplay that the base game had.

That being said there isn't anything totally outstanding in Cleocatra. While it packs quite a lot of game into a small, quick package, it doesn't manage to do anything that hasn't been done before. It does do things well, and it does them with cute cats, which makes it certainly worth a look, but it's not as unique as Cat Rescue. If you are a lover of cats, Egyptian cats, or tile-laying filler games then you can check out the Kickstarter coming later this month.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Cleocatra shines when you play the advanced rules. Each cat has a unique ability, as well as lovely unique art. The abilities on the cats allow you to really manipulate the board, blocking scoring opportunities for other players, giving yourself some momentum to keep rescuers out on the board for longer and allowing you to snipe really good looking opportunities from other players. More-so than when playing the basic game, experienced payers of chess-like abstract games may have that vision to plan ahead and create or block opportunities. It's certainly a vision that I don't have and advanced games were objectively much more interesting, but a much harder time for me personally.


Cleocatra is an extremely simple tile laying game in its basic form and I'd certainly recommend it only as an introductory game to a family audience, before moving onto the advanced rules. It's a little bit puzzly and that's enjoyable enough - but for most people in a similar age bracket, the scores will be very close because scoring opportunities are very evenly shared. In the early game you might get affected by luck of the draw, if you draw a matching coloured triangle rather than one that's different to the others near where your rescuers are located. Otherwise, opportunities to score are quite obvious, and opportunities to do a lot of blocking are quite rare.

Cleocatra is another adorable game from this studio, and if you're playing the advanced mode, or exploring the expansion content, then you'll find a tricky, spatial abstract game with some cut-throat elements and lots to think about in every turn. If that sounds like your kind of small, quick filler game, then check out the Kickstarter this March.


You Might Like...
  • Cleocatra has a really small footprint.
  • The advanced game is a real step up from the basic game and should appeal to players who like chess-like abstract games.
  • The art is really adorable.
You Might Not Like...
  • The advanced game requires quite a lot of foresight, which is always a skill that we find Amy has much more of and can create a imbalance and obvious winner in every game.
  • Some of the advanced mode abilities can add a very mean aspect to the game, especially at two players.

The Verdict

Cleocatra does a lot in a very small package. It's definitely an abstract game, but the cute artwork helps it to stand out. The game itself is quick but clever and the advanced game really shines with the layers of complexity added by the unique cat abilities. Cleocatra hasn't blown us away in the same way that Cat Rescue did, but it's still an impressively compact abstract game with lots of layers of complexity to explore.




Cleocatra was a preview copy kindly provided to us by Ta-Te Wu. The game will be live on Kickstarter from March 11th 2020.

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